Western nations escalate plans to evacuate diplomats from Sudan | Sudan

Western nations have intensified increasingly desperate efforts to evacuate diplomats and their dependents from Khartoum, as battles raged in the centre of the Sudanese capital and in its twin city of Omdurman.

The US has already evacuated embassy staff and families from Khartoum, sending Chinook helicopters carrying special forces on Saturday night to evacuate about 70 Americans from a landing zone at the embassy to an undisclosed location in Ethiopia, according to US officials.

The successful US operation has increased the pressure on other western nations to get their nationals out of Sudan amid the continued fighting.

France’s foreign ministry said on Sunday that a “rapid evacuation operation” had begun, and that European citizens and those from “allied partner countries” would also be assisted, without giving further details. Reports from Khartoum suggested that a first attempt to evacuate French diplomats had failed when a convoy came under fire, with some passengers injured.

One big challenge is fighting over Khartoum’s airport, which has sustained significant damage since the conflict broke out last weekend.

The violence has pitted army units loyal to Sudan’s military ruler, Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, against the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, who is the deputy head of the ruling council. Their power struggle has raised fears of chaos and a humanitarian disaster in the country of 45 million people, Africa’s third largest.

On Sunday, internet and phone services appear to have collapsed across much of country. Medicine, fuel and food are scarce in much of Khartoum, while a combination of fighting and looting make leaving home to search for essential provisions dangerous.

A declared truce that was to coincide with the three-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr collapsed on Saturday. The ceasefire was supposed to allow thousands of Khartoum residents who have been trapped by the fighting to reach safety and visit family during the Muslim holiday of Eid.

“We did not see such a truce,” said Amin al-Tayed from his home near the state television headquarters in Omdurman. He said heavy gunfire and thundering explosions rocked the city. “The battles did not stop,” he said.

The fighting has killed more than 400 people and injured more than 3,500, according to the World Health Organization.

Both warring factions have said they will help facilitate the evacuation of a number of diplomats and nationals from multiple countries.

On Twitter, Dagalo claimed that his forces were ready “to provide the necessary facilities to help citizens and foreign communities pass through to safe places”.

The Greek foreign minister said the country had dispatched aircraft and special forces to its ally, Egypt, in preparation for an evacuation of 120 Greek and Cypriot nationals from Khartoum. Most of them have sought shelter in recent days at a Greek Orthodox cathedral in the capital, Nikos Dendias said.

The Netherlands sent two air force Hercules C-130 planes and an Airbus A330 to Jordan ahead of a possible rescue mission, while Italy has dispatched military jets to the Gulf of Aden nation of Djibouti to prepare for the evacuation of 140 Italian nationals in Sudan, many of whom have already taken refuge in the embassy. The Italian foreign minister, Antonio Tajani, said the ministry’s crisis unit was in touch with stranded citizens.

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It is unclear if Khartoum’s main airport is usable, even if the fighting around the facility stops long enough to ensure safe passage through nearby war-torn neighbourhoods. A number of civilian aircraft have been destroyed and at least one runway has been badly damaged. Other airports across the country, such as that at Merowe 186 miles (300km) north of Khartoum, are thought to have been put out of action by bombardments.

The roads from Khartoum north to Egypt and to Port Sudan on the Red Sea, 520 miles (840km) away, offer risky alternatives. Saudi Arabia on Saturday said the kingdom successfully evacuated 157 people, including 91 Saudi nationals and citizens of other countries via Port Sudan, from where navy ship then ferried the evacuees across the Red Sea to the Saudi port of Jeddah.

The United Nations is also struggling to extract hundreds of international staff, warning that evacuation by land may be the only option. One UN worker said some UN staff have already left, travelling from Khartoum to Port Sudan or from the south-western region of Darfur into neighbouring Chad.

The US and France have bases in Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa. Lloyd Austin, the US defence secretary, said on Friday afternoon that the US had deployed military forces “in theatre” – meaning in countries relatively close to Sudan – to give the White House choices as to how to proceed, with 19,000 US citizens estimated to be stuck in the country.

“Our focus is to make sure that we continue to do planning, that we create and maintain as many options for our president as possible,” he said at a press conference at Ramstein airbase in Germany.

The UK foreign secretary, James Cleverly, cut short a tour of New Zealand and Samoa to return to the UK to focus on its response to the crisis in Sudan, as well as to launch high-level diplomacy in an attempt to move the two warring parties towards a ceasefire.

Joe Biden, the US president, said in a statement: “This tragic violence in Sudan has already cost the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians. It’s unconscionable and it must stop. The belligerent parties must implement an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, allow unhindered humanitarian access, and respect the will of the people of Sudan.”

( Information from politico.com was used in this report. Also if you have any problem of this article or if you need to remove this articles, please email here and we will delete this immediately. [email protected] )

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